Re: BA (leg flags) or BOCA (protection of birds)

Subject: Re: BA (leg flags) or BOCA (protection of birds)
From: "Frank O'Connor" <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 19:00:10 +0900

Marilyn has been refuted on birding-aus every time she makes these completely unsubstantiated claims. She has yet to provide any facts, despite being requested to do so on every occasion. See the birding-aus archives. These uninformed claims could be let go through to the keeper, but birding-aus is archived, and so a response needs to be made yet again.

Yes, the AWSG bands shorebirds including an annual expedition to NW Australia. We catch many retraps (up to 20% of the catch in Broome), with numerous birds well over 10 years since first capture. It is the AWSG that documents the declining numbers of shorebirds in the East Asian Australasian Flyway. It is this data that prompts the government to pursue its obligations to protect migratory shorebirds. Australia is now a signatory to the JAMBA (Japan) and CAMBA (China) agreements to protect migratory shorebirds, and there has been a very recent announcement that an agreement will be signed with Korea (ROKAMBA). Without leg flags, these countries would ignore Australia, as we couldn't prove that the birds that migrate through to Australia stopover in these countries.

There is a decline in migratory shorebirds, but this can be closely attributed to the loss of habitat, especially at stopover locations near the Yellow Sea. I have seen no data for a decline of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Sanderling. Curlew Sandpipers were thought to have dramatically declined, but sightings have been found of large numbers in the past few years that suggest that with the changed climatic conditions, that they are feeding at different locations (e.g. Lake Macleod north of Carnarvon) and the decline may not be as large as thought. Red Knots have declined. The biggest decline is in the American flyway. There has been a decline in the north west at 80 Mile Beach, but wader banding cannot be accused. Fewer than 1% of the birds have been caught. Of the approximately 250,000 shorebirds on 80 Mile Beach in November, we catch about 1,500 each year in about 8 days. Our retrap rate is about 1%. Most of the retraps are of birds first caught very close to where they were retrapped.

There has been work done on the age of retraps. There is no evidence to show that the leg flagged population is any different to the unflagged population. The data is publicly available through the ABBBS scheme if you want to do your own analysis. The data is not collected just for the sake of collecting data. There have been or will be more than 40 papers published in scientific journals. A book on Australian waders is in preparation, with much of the information being derived from the results of wader banding. We have trained people from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and other countries which is helping enormously to raise the profile of these birds in these countries. In the last expedition, we caught the first flagged Common Greenshanks from Japan and China, to put hard facts behind their migration routes.

If you have doubts about wader banding, then join the AWSG ($12 per year I think - you don't need to be a member of BA) and volunteer for the next north west expedition in November. It will cost you about $1,000 to cover food and transport, plus your airfare and accommodation at the BBO. It is three weeks in the northern heat and humidity, but you will be blown away by the knowledge that has been attained, how it is being put to use, and the enthusiasm and dedication of the volunteers. There is nothing to hide. You will gain as much as your enthusiasm will allow.

BOCA would support the outcomes achieved, and the methods used. They have never expressed anything remotely close to disapproval, and I couldn't imagine that they would.

BA provides no money to the AWSG directly. It does collect the annual subscription, and a few other administrative things. The AWSG funds itself through the enthusiasm of its volunteer members.

So the challenge is again put to Marilyn.  Put up or shut up.

At 05:47 PM 20/02/2007, Marilyn Davis wrote:
Frank forgot to tell you that from money received by its members, BA supports leg flagging waders. For whatever reason leg flags are applied, they cause or contribute to the death of almost all tagged small migratory birds within 12 months. Very few leg flagged birds survive their next migration. Most are never seen again. A fraction of them survive 12 months to provide the research results. Also catching methods, particularly cannon netting are very destructive killing up to 3% of trapped birds. Any field reports of significant wader numbers are often pursued by the leg flaggers.

BA research such as leg flagging is causing a massive losses and decline in some rare and threatened populations of migratory waders, especially the smaller species such as Red Knot, Sanderling, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpipers. Red-necked stints as well but their decline is not so obvious. BA does not acknowledge it matters never implementing a single measuring or study method such as visual date identification designed to identify impacts caused by their meaningless work.

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email : ===============================

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